“Don’t lose anything,” are my mother’s daily parting words; they follow me down Nachmani Street as I walk to Balfour Elementary.
Today as always I must guard the book bag, the sweater, and particularly the lunch bag with the sandwich and apple, and I am strictly forbidden to forget and leave the new copybook she bought me in the classroom “because then I won’t know what you have learned…”
This is a part of her soul. To a mother from Vilna nothing is more important than discipline and acquisition of education. She does not give up until I disappear from her view, and even then her voice still echoes from far away. “And stop daydreaming!”
I do daydream. Nothing is better. I am no longer within hearing range. I turn to the right, down the street, into Yavneh Street, I cross the street and I am at school. “And don’t chatter because it will be again commented on in your notebook.” Did I dream this part or did she really say it?
I do indeed chat with my bench mates. The teacher, Mrs. Boxer, commands me to move from one bench to the next like the Wondering Jew, until finally I sit by myself at the front bench, right under her supervision. This way she can see from above that I don’t fail other pupils by my chatting.
The worst is trying to concentrate sitting near the window facing the playground next to the Strauss Infirmary.
The treetops wave with the breeze, and I can hear the toddlers’ laugher, far away from mathematical divisions.
Numbers don’t speak to me. I need a story. Judah Maccabee at the head of his army, Sarah and Abraham at their tent’s entrance, Pharaoh’s daughter by the Nile. These stories are my escape from the strict discipline exercised by my teacher, who is the product of the Russian School and believes in using fear and threats.
Mother is not making it easy. Her demand of losing nothing is beyond my strength.
The athletic shoes were forgotten in the school yard. The key which hangs on a thread on my neck, fell down and was lost. A latchkey girl with no key.
“Explain to me again, how can one lose a key?”
“It disappeared. Maybe someone pulled it off during recess?”
“But I tied it securely with the string. Where is the string?”
Avishag Gabai unpacks a handbag made of good leather in room 701 on the seventh floor. She glances at the watch on her cell phone. She still has time; she needs a cigarette.
Lately she has returned to smoking, so she locates the smoke alarm on the ceiling, pulls out a cigarette and a lighter and goes out on the terrace. The blue landscape revealed to her is filled with smoke. She fills up her lungs to capacity as she inhales, sighing with relief.
She does not like and does not allow herself to be pressured, but right now she is not relaxed.
Like all the gorgeous women of the old Meyuchas family from Jerusalem, her skin is olive and her black hair flows in wild curls.
Her beloved grandmother Miriam Meyuchas, whose roots are deep into the holy land, taught her that it was best to keep everything inside…”We, the Sephardic women, are proud and wise…” She whispered in her ear “You will be strong, Chikita, you hear?... La casa del jeque a la mujer.” (The home belongs to the woman.)”
With apologies for the long hiatus, which hopefully is over for an even longer time, I am happy to present you with a new story by the Israeli writer, Nurit Henig. This is a timely, disturbing, and fascinating story. Don't let the light tone and wit prevent you from seeing the truth...
Exploding Buses By Nurit Henig
“The problem with this competition is that you can’t write a tragic story, since reality presents such stories every day,” I said. “It’s only a story… not something sacred… anything one wants to write is possible…” and I thought about something from the macabre or absurd genres, but it must be strange… and surrealistic, witty and not tragic, and most important, funny, as stated on the announcement. “Let me see you invent something funny about exploding buses,” insisted my friend. “Let’s say that… Yes, I got it… Oded’s father works at an insurance company, and he develops a new insurance policy. They call it “Explosion Policy” and it insures against exploding buses, and not a few Israelis are showing in interest.” “So what’s funny about it?” “Someone calculates that creating such a policy is financially rewarding for the insurance company, since the odds of exploding in a bus are rather low. Otherwise, it’s not worth it.” “You can’t make fun of exploding buses,” said my friend when she decided to write for the competition.
This new story by our guest author, Nurit Henig, is quite different from our usual material. A respectable, dignified and intelligent older person is telling a story his great-grandfather passed on to him, and which he wishes to pass on to new generations. Most appropriate for Personal Histories, you would say. Except… something here is a little strange…
The EYE An Imaginary Autobiography
This is what my great-grandfather told me when I was a child.
For many months the EYE hovered over the city, without eyelashes, without eyelids, dry and lusterless. Never shutting, never winking. Someone said that at midnight he saw it shed a tear, but there was no other evidence, so we denied the rumor. It was the size of an Arctic winter cloud with its edges fading away. It would mean nothing to someone who had never visited the North Pole, but we identified it immediately.
When it first appeared above the roof we expected the grey rain, silvery and warm, like the rain that surprised us in the previous few years. But then its color changed into poisonous blue-green, and finally it stopped above the tower – in the middle of the square. We knew we had to get rid of it before disaster struck. But there was no chance of “Strong Wind” or “Unexpected Storm” or “Radioactive Rain” that would blow it to shreds. You could not be sure of anything, so we decided to try other ways.
I have a wonderful new story from Nurit Henig; I am so thrilled to have another contribution from such a wonderfur author. This story is so utterly visual, so unusual, and so touching, and it relates the mother/daughter experience during hard times in such a positive and uplifting way, I find it quite unique. Enjoy!
THE MIRROR By Nurit Henig
Mother looks at her face in the round mirror. She moves to the side, disappears, and then comes back to me, inspecting, moving forward, backwards. She smoothes one cheek back, straightens it, and then the other, as if she was kneading, in soft plasticine, a face she promised would soon be beautiful.
The apartment is always crowded with people and children, sounds and noises inside and out. During summer our street is buzzing with human voices, on the sidewalks, the road, in the backyards; coachmen are crying their wares, neighbors chat from balcony to balcony. The houses are white, three stories high, and their roofs white with laundry. Noontime in Tel Aviv is hot and humid, only in the evening you can enjoy the western breeze as it comes from the sea.
Warning -- this gripping story is not for the faint of heart... but I am happy to announce that I have persuaded Nurit Henig to send us a wonderful new posting for Personal Histories.
THE MOTHER OF THE DREAMS By Nurit Henig
Her childhood has not been more miserable than other children’s, except for the dreams that she remembers to this day, as she listens to her own children’s dreams and is unable to tell them about hers.
She remembers broken images, where she is abandoned, lost, coming home to a locked door, losing her book bag or being severely scolded by her teacher. Then in high school, during puberty, she died and was resurrected almost every night, until she was afraid to fall asleep. But the worst nightmare was “The Operating Room Dream” which appeared one night and stayed with her for years.
This is the Hebrew version of Nurit Henig's new story about the life and thoughts of a child during a war. I think it is universal to all children and all wars... and very beautifully written. Please wee the previous entry to read the English version! It's a little different from my usual postings in the way it was formatted, but this is because the site keeps arguing with me that it does not understand Hebrew, and I had to trick it by seeing it as a picture...
I am happy to post a second story by Nurit Henig (see her biography on the story "Yuda'le" below). Not only I find it an extremely well-writting story, but it is a powerful, universal account of a child's life and thoughts during war.
Children’s Games: A War Story By Nurit Henig
The three of us, Nili, Koby, and I, sat on our sand hill which the truck dumped on the sidewalk.
The hill wasn’t only ours, it belonged to all the residents on the street, who filled sacks to protect the shelters’ doors from the air blast, but we turned it into a playground, and no one had the leisure to chase us away. It happened a little after Passover, and after I had celebrated my seventh birthday.
Mother thought I was too old to play in the sand, but there were no games in the little room we occupied on the third floor, except a box of Pick-Up Sticks, dominoes, two packs of cards the grownups used for playing Gin Rummy, and also an old chess set Father used to open when he was home, but he was at the wars for a long time. It was late afternoon on Friday so we knew we would have to separate any minute, since it was almost the Sabbath.
I am thrilled to post a new personal history from Israel! The story is generously given to us by a distinguished lecturer and scriptwriter, Dr. Yitzchak Enav-Winehouse. Enjoy! And please leave many nice comments since I hope to persuade Dr. Enav-Winehouse to send us more...
WHO ARE YOU, TEACHER? Yitzchak Enav-Winehouse
Ever since I can remember myself, I have taught much but learnt so much more from my teaching. It all began a long, long time ago and in another country. I was then no more than a naive, twelve year old and there, wide-eyed in front of me were the “Kovshim,” the youngest age group in what is now the legendary Zionist youth movement of Hashomer Hatzair. The clubhousewas situated in the working class district of Hackney, the very heartland of Cockney London. These were kids who came from homes, like my own, where the only book to be found was a “sidur” or prayer book. They, like myself, would learn, in a movement which seethed with intellectual activity, of the worth and intoxication of reading.
I am delighted to post a very nice review that was sent to me by Dr. Yitzchak Enav (Winehouse), a noted lecturer and scriptwriter.
"I just found your delightful story: a lovely variation on Hamletian indecision and its devastating consequences. It has something very Jewish rather than Israeli about its tone. Yudale's procrastinations remind me of the Yeshiva Bochar dithering between two interpretations of a text, or the wondrous piece of dithering on the part of the protagonist in the film Chinese Take-Away. Terrific stuff!! Send me more ! Publish!"